Who needs sensors and circuit boards when you have ultrasonic waves? Even the simplest iPhone dock or gamepad is a relatively complex device, filled with complex electronics that allow you to press buttons or turn knobs to activate the right circuits and send a signal like “turn the volume up” to your iPhone.
But a new project led by Gierad Laput and Eric Brockmeyer, in a collaboration between Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon, has the potential to rip the circuits out of your smartphone accessories, and create new interactions through nothing more than cheap, 3-D printable plastic. The project is called Accoustraments. Rather than depending on electrical signals to recognize knob turns and button presses, Accoustraments treats a smartphone accessory like an instrument.
In the video above, the team demonstrated a small handful of possibilities of this technology. They created an iPhone case built from soft, squishy tubes, that can recognize when it’s on a table, in your hand, or taking a photograph. They constructed an alarm clock that you could activate with a switch, and snooze by pressing a big satisfying button. And they demonstrated a toy car that could attach to a phone, but as an added bonus, its wheels actually sent their movement data to the phone, so the phone could display a realtime driving game. It’s wild technology, but none of these accessories would probably cost more than a buck apiece to mass produce. … (read more)